Near the end of each year, I can't help but partake in a long bit of introspection. Thinking back to the year like one remembers a good book they just read, recalling the chapters and events that led up to the end of the story. So here we are, at the end of the story that is 2008.
Here today, on Christmas Eve, we eagerly await the arrival of Christmas tomorrow, with runny noses, painful ears and hacking coughs. As does seem to be customary whenever I take a vacation from work, I get sick. It started like clockwork at around 3pm last Friday, my last day there before vacation this week, and with many pills of echinecea, many hours of sleep (forced), on this eve I am starting to feel better. "Better" being somewhat of a loose term, but better nonetheless. I would prefer to grovel in my anger about how I haven't accomplished any of the things I set out to do while I have been off of work, or spent the kind of time with my family that I wanted; I could also be really pissed off that I spent last weekend in bed when I wanted to take the kids to various Christmas events around town, or not get that promised quality time with my husband that we had planned with a babysitter to watch the kids while we had an uninterrupted conversation over a bottle of wine. The bathrooms continue to be dirty, the laundry is piling up, and the art room has yet to be organized. So yes, I am pissed off. Pissed off, but trying to remain positive.
Work has been very difficult this year, and I've been telling myself for the past week to not think about it, but it is hard not to. Hard not to think about how my day job has quickly spiraled into a non-existent career, going nowhere and nowhere fast. Hard not to think about how I'm getting older, and need to have a career since I am the only bread winner in the house. And yet at the same time I am at odds with that job, because it's not what I really want to do, and what I really want to do doesn't put bread on the table and pay the mortgage right now. It's the unending paradox; I don't have the money to start the business I want, and I can't afford to quit the job I have right now to start living the life I really want to live. All of these thoughts swirling in my sick head over the week, while wiping other kids noses and wrapping gifts and trying not let on what is really bothering me. Trying to keep a smile on my face for the kids. I had been looking forward to this time off for quite some time, but my mind won't let it go. Christmas is not my favorite holiday. Never had been. And especially since the death of my father, whose birthday was on Christmas, it feels like something to feel sorry for myself about. Another thing hard to let go. But must keep trying for the kids! as I say, must not let them know the pain that is hard to conceal. Don't want to ruin their holiday over something they have nothing to do with or can relate to at all. Painful still after 22 years.
Oh God, this self-pity is too hard to bear; I can't imagine how it must be for you, the reader. But as I type this, it's been cathartic. Heather at Cool Zebras took a picture of herself as a study of a moment in time, a true self-portrait even if it were without make-up or a gratuitous smile. So I have attempted the same self-study, along with where I feel my place is in the world at this moment. I do know I have so much to be thankful for, and that most of this internal strife is self-motivated. But is it a crime to want to be your best as a human being? To make the most use of this little bit of time we have on this earth to accomplish our goals, dreams, and live the most satisfying life we want to live? It doesn't seem to be enough for me to just be a mother and a wife and a provider, I need something more. Something more personal. Something deeper that's been festering for years.
The good thing about the end of the year, is that there is always the next one. Each year I knock on wood that I get a next one, and with the next one comes the annual opportunity to be that better human being. Time these days to me seems so restricted between the day job, the kids, the domesticity of life on the weekends; there is hardly room for me to breathe. Everyone keeps telling me when Andrew gets older there will be more peace. Right now is tough with little kids to do anything but mothering. A little bit of time here and there to blog, to get crafty, to write, to draw, to photograph, to drink, to laugh, to talk, to paint, to clean, to shop, to reflect, to read, to just sit and be silent. These little bits I look forward to.
And between the little bits, there is the joy of mothering. True, I did not become a mother to just push them away and not spend time with them. This past year we have splashed in the Atlantic ocean, climbed the side of a cave, rode bikes, walked through the woods, traveled 1200 miles, wrote our names in the sand, planted flowers, made water balloons, built miles of train tracks, played endless hours of games and traversed the landscape of our city on blacktop, grass and dirt.
The endless internal fight between "me" time and "mothering" time. I can say with certainty it will continue as I look forward to 2009. But don't we all grapple with that? Don't all fathers and mothers undulate between their old selves and their new selves as parents? And so it goes. The wanting and the non-wanting.
But truthfully would I want it any other way? Probably not. I need the friction to survive.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good rest of the year.